Seven individuals from four Uplifting Athletes Chapters run Pro Day Reps For Rare Diseases campaigns

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For three straight years, members of the Uplifting Athletes chapter network have run campaigns during the NFL Combine to shine a spotlight on the rare disease community.

This year three players ran Reps For Rare Diseases fundraising and awareness campaigns at the NFL Combine.

Not all chapter members with NFL aspirations were extended combine invites, but many participated in their team Pro Day and several ran Reps For Rare Diseases campaigns.

Four schools, Illinois, Maryland, Florida State and Arizona, had individuals volunteer to run Reps For Rare Diseases campaigns during their Pro Day events in March.

All total the Pro Day Reps for Rare Diseases campaigns raised more than $5,000 to support the Uplifting Athletes mission to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

Four players, former chapter president Joe Spencer, Michael Martin, Rob Bain and Ryan Frain, teamed up to run individual campaigns under the Illinois Chapter umbrella.

Rod Johnson represented Florida State, former chapter President Josh Kern carried the flag for Arizona and Roman Braglio stepped up at Maryland.

Thanks to all the fans who supported these seven individuals representing four student-athlete led Uplifting Athletes Chapters on NFL Pro Days across the country.

Former Syracuse WR Amba Etta-Tawo to donate a portion of proceeds from autograph appearance on March 19 to Uplifting Athletes

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Former Syracuse All-American wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo is coming off a strong NFL Combine and is returning to Central New York for an autograph session.

Amba will be at Cooperstown Connection inside Destiny USA on Sunday, March 19 from 2-4 p.m. If you are in the Syracuse area, come out and meet the Orange’s first All-American selection since 2001.

He is donating a portion of the proceeds he makes from his appearance to Uplifting Athletes and the Syracuse Chapter. The more autographs Amba signs, the more he donates.

Being a part of the Syracuse Chapter was an important part of Amba’s college experience. He furthered his commitment with a Leaping For Rare Diseases campaign during the recent NFL Combine, and plans to continue to support Uplifting Athletes and its mission to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport.

Surviving the second GORUCK Challenge in Harrisburg


My name is Amy Ladas, I’m 36 years young, and I currently live in Harrisburg, Pa. I love anything that challenges me and forces me outside of my comfort zone… intellectually, emotionally, physically. I love strongman training, heavy weight lifting, the camaraderie of CrossFit, and anything that gets me to move. I’m an artist and musician at heart. I grew up as a tomboy and country girl and determination is my middle name. I love meeting inspirational people that also believe in things bigger than themselves. This was my first experience with a GORUCK event.

Everybody has experienced that moment in time where you’ve agreed to do something completely unique, and you have to keep quieting the thoughts in your head that tell you that you might regret it.

These thoughts will cause you to question your sanity, tell you that you might fall down and possibly not make it to the end and fail.

I used to fear these thoughts and stick to my familiar routines, my comfort zone.

So what better way to shake it up than trying something completely out of your comfort zone?

“Please don’t let my personal experience here frighten you,” Andy Shay told us when we met to consider registering for this GORUCK Challenge. “This is a beater.”

I couldn’t agree more!

Our GORUCK Challenge team of 27 individuals started at City Island, right outside the walking bridge and the baseball stadium. I believe each of us was antsy for the 10 p.m. start.

Number one rule: Never let the ruck touch the ground.

In the vacant field, where the grass was not yet wet with dew, Cadre Dakotah had us do warm-up PT. Squats, lunges, push-ups, overhead presses, bear crawls, team drags, burpees, flutter kicks, hill sprints… all with the rucks on our backs, stomachs, overhead, whatever was asked of us.

We did about 15 total miles – broken into an average, 2.5-3.5 mile trips spanning the capital region (back and forth across the very scenic Susquehanna river).

On one trip we carried all of our normal weight plus a number of sand bags of various weights – from 120 pounds down to 40 pounds.

Then, on another trip we carried all of that plus rocks of varying shapes and weights. One of the rocks required 2-3 guys, and several of the bulky rocks required us to have small teams that could swap out.

We eventually covered the required distance in the middle of the night and were finally put down the sand bags and rocks.

GORUCK BLOG1Next we found ourselves in Camp Hill in the middle of a park where we raced each other pushing picnic tables on the wet grass in the middle of the night.

Then the team pushed a padded football sled about four or five times around the entire football field. Each trip was preceded by a humorous story that Dakotah would pull from his witty brain, all with the biggest grin and a crazy twinkle in his eyes.

We each battled our internal thoughts, exhaustion and cramps, reminding each other to keep fueled and hydrated. Above all we learned to rely and trust each other.

My breakthrough was learning how to not be afraid of asking for help. The reality was that none of us could have done anything we did alone.

At one point before sunrise, we pushed ourselves to make it from the middle of Camp Hill back to the gardens on Front Street in Harrisburg all in 60 minutes – jogging a lot of the time to try to make it.

The penalty for not making it was additional PT when we were “done” with everything else in the morning. We all tried our best and came in close at 64 minutes. The frustration was visible on our tired faces, but we had to keep in mind how to keep the team stronger and more together as one unit.

The toughest leg of the journey was from the gardens on Front Street right after sunrise all the way to the National Civil War Museum and amphitheater … with a beastly telephone pole.

Because some members of the team were too short for their shoulders to help carry the weight, the team carrying the pole was a slimmer crew.

We tried subbing in and out, but it was brutal, painful and agonizing. Some said it was soul-crushing, and it really felt like it.

After getting rid of the telephone pole, we were treated to some burpees and sprints up and down a steep hill. We hooked up with the GORUCK Light team, which started at 5 a.m., and took a break to sit and listen to each Cadre talk about their special operations experiences.

These are amazing men with passionate souls and experiences that far surpass movie scripts. The break was nice, but our adventure wasn’t over.

We were all stiff from sitting still, but now under Cadre Michael’s guidance, we rucked it back to Walnut Street walking bridge.

Synchronized walking lunges for about half the length of the bridge seemed at first impossible, considering how exhausted we all were. But the silent synchronized beats of our footsteps coming together sounded awesome. Like River Dance for GORUCK.

We returned to City Island, to the place where it all started more than 12 hours earlier. The Cadre placed patches in the palms of our incredibly heavy outstretched arms, said we could drop our arms to our sides and remove our rucks for the final time.

Beer never tasted so good. We survived. We each have stories we’ll forever remember. As much as it wiped me out and knocked me down, I know I’ll do it again.

I love the quote that says: “when life knocks you down, do a burpee!”

Whether during an exhausting and liberating GORUCK Challenge, or just going about your daily life in your own little world where sometimes it feels like we are alone in our journey … never forget that: Together … We Are … Stronger!


Penn State Chapter Efforts Continue Year-Round

As the Penn State Chapter continues its push to $1 million dollars raised for kidney cancer research, new president Ben Kline and the rest of his committed leadership team stays busy.

Kids Combine PhotoEarlier this year, despite the snow in State College, the Nittany Lions’ chapter ran a very successful Kids Combine. The idea was to treat it like a Penn State recruiting camp to help young kids learn some finer details of the game.

The Blue-White game this year was memorable. Each and every jersey featured an Uplifting Athletes patch on the right shoulder as a show of support for the rare disease community.

Following the game the jerseys were auctioned off on the Penn State web site in order to raise more research dollars. Also that day AAA South Penn made tweets on Twitter worth rare disease research dollars.

For each tweet with the hashtag #AAABlueWhite AAA South Penn donated $5 to the Penn State Chapter.

PSU B-W Game JerseyThe summer will be continue to be a busy time for the Nittany Lions’ chapter as they prepare for their signature Lift For Life in July.

Also, next month is the ninth Mike Shimko Golf Tournament to benefit the Penn State Chapter in memory of Mike Shimko, who lost his battle with kidney cancer.

“My mother and I have always received tremendous assistance and support from the Penn State chapter president and from other members of the team,” Mike Shimko Jr. said.

To find out more details about the Mike Shimko Golf Tournament, click here.

Road trip during Uplifting Athletes Bowl Season reveals unified spirit for rare diseases


Last week, I had the opportunity to attend four very unique Uplifting Athletes Chapter events throughout the Midwest and one stop in the Southeast.

Although each event was vastly different from the other, all four had one common thread – each is unified through their efforts to fight rare diseases.

The morning of Sunday, July 21, the Huskers hit the pavement with their first Road Race featuring a 1-mile run and 5K. Chapter members helped make their first event a success by handling everything from preparing fruit for race finishers, running with kids for the 1-mile race to cheering on those who completed the 5K. It was a gorgeous morning in Lincoln filled with energy similar to a game day – but this time the Huskers were doing the cheering.

Part of the Midwest tour also included another first-time Chapter event at the University of Wisconsin Tuesday, July 23.

WISCONSIN 1Inspired by Darien Moran, a 14-year-old boy battling Lagerhan’s Cell Histiocytosis X, the Badgers turned another day in the weight room into an awareness and fundraising opportunity. Darien was on hand to lead the players through their strength and conditioning workout that day and the lift was followed by a spirited dodgeball game. The Badgers definitely pushed themselves to the limit that afternoon and enjoyed their first event.

Nearby Big Ten rival Northwestern held its third Lift For Life on Tuesday as well. Taking advantage of a gorgeous summer evening in Evanston, the Wildcats showed off their grit outdoors on their practice field.

Fans and players alike had a wonderful evening, although the players may have enjoyed the cookout after their grueling workout a bit more. The atmosphere was parallel to a neighborhood block party – a sense of community in a fun environment.

NORTHWESTERN 1To end this whirlwind four events in five days, I headed back east and down south to Raleigh, NC.

Here at NC State, the Wolfpack hosted their second Lift For Life thankfully in a bit cooler weather than they had the previous week. With music playing through the speakers at their practice field, fans enjoyed watching the Wolfpack compete in a variety of events including a Gator-pull and relay course.

Each Chapter brought their own personality to their event and truly made it a unique experience. It was amazing to see the Chapter leaders successfully complete events after months of hard work and preparation.

In my opinion, these are the people who truly embody the definition of a leader. They refuse to accept that there is nothing they can’t do to help out people who desperately need it.

These are the young men who, in the face of hard times, put themselves on the front line instead of cowering back. It has been an absolute pleasure working with them, helping to enable them for their battle in this fight against rare diseases whether it is through a Lift For Life or Road Race.

NC STATE 1I would also like to thank the other Chapters who have held events this year that were not part of this last leg of our “Bowl Season”. Colgate, St. Francis, Maryland, Princeton, Illinois, South Carolina, Penn State, Notre Dame, Fordham and Syracuse – you all should be proud of what you accomplished. I know we are proud of each and every one of you here at Uplifting Athletes.

Together, we can make the difference in the lives of the 30 million Americans currently suffering from a rare disease.

Together…We Are…Stronger!
Becky Mayes, Uplifting Athletes Chapter Manager

Nine Events in 14 Days Yields Big Dollars and Awareness for Rare Disease Research

UA NEBRASKA1With each passing year, Uplifting Athletes continues to grow and expand its footprint in the world of college football to help in the fight against rare diseases.

Considering the organization has doubled in each of the initial five years of existence as we laid our roots, what has happened in 2013 was unprecedented.

The addition of five new active chapters in less than six months – three of those five holding events in July – made for one busy season.

It all added up to a run of nine events in 14 days that raised nearly $180,000 for rare disease research.

“A mark of our progress as an organization is the sense of calmness in the midst of the craziness,” Executive Director Scott Shirley said. “We have a small team of amazing employees and broad network of student-athlete volunteers who are playing to win and we’re definitely moving the ball down the field in the fight against rare diseases.

“Our collective efforts are inspiring the rare disease community with hope.”

Kicking off the train was Notre Dame holding a bowling event as the first official event for the Fighting Irish chapter.

In between that July 14 event and NC State holding its second Lift For Life on July 25, new chapters at South Carolina, Syracuse and Wisconsin each held inaugural Lift For Life events to raise funds and awareness for its chosen rare disease.

The Nebraska chapter teamed up with the Lincoln Track Club to hold a highly successful 5K road race. It was the first official event for the Cornhuskers’ chapter.

Penn State set a fundraising record for a chapter during its 11th Lift For Life and Fordham and Northwestern held their second and third events, respectively.

Together … We Are … Stronger!

Visit our Uplifting Athletes Storify page to check out some of the social media highlights from our events.

Patriot League Championship Within Reach

I hope you are as excited about tomorrow as we are. Once again, your Colgate Raiders have made it to the Patriot League Championship game. It’s been four long years since Colgate has won the league title and Coach Biddle constantly reminds the team that none of us have a ring. With that said, we are starving for a ring.
Heading into tomorrow’s contest at Lehigh, your Raiders are coming off of a record-breaking 65-41 win versus Lafayette. We compiled a league record 747 yards of total offense. Quarterback, Gavin McCarney, rushed for 288 yards on 19 carries which is also a league and school record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Runningback, Jordan McCord, also broke the 200-yard rushing mark (203) and added four touchdowns as we rolled over the Leopards.
The nationally ranked Lehigh Mountainhawks 5/8 will pose much more of a challenge tomorrow afternoon. Lehigh is 9-0 on the year and has won 18 straight Patriot League games. Their record does not reflect the caliber of their ball club. The games they have won this year have all come down to the wire. We have not changed a thing on offense and we will continue to do what we do tomorrow. Defensively, we plan to heat up Lehigh’s senior quarterback, Mike Colvin, so we can keep the ball out of All-American wide receiver, Ryan Spadola’s hands.
In my two years playing for Colgate I have not seen the guys or the coaches this excited and confident for a game before. Although,  the winner of tomorrow’s game will be crowned champion of the league, it is just another game. No matter what the circumstances may be, we would have had to play Lehigh on November 10th regardless. Tomorrow is just another game and that’s how we are treating it. We are going to come out and play Colgate football for four quarters tomorrow. Coach Biddle always tells us, “The only team that can beat Colgate is Colgate.”
We are excited to represent everything Colgate stands for in tomorrow’s championship contest. I hope we can give you something to celebrate this weekend. Let’s go ‘gate! G.A.T.A!!!!!!


James DeCicco is a sophomore at Colgate University and plays quarterback for the Colgate Raiders football team. He is a member for the Colgate chapter of Uplifting Athletes and a member of the Student Athletes Advisory Committee (SAAC).